Jakarta Globe, Made Arya Kencana, February 05, 2010
Denpasar. After discovering that forests in his district were still being illegally logged, Gede Winasa, head of the Jembrana district in Bali, on Friday threatened to “isolate” villages that are linked to the logging and to cut off their operational funding.
“I have spent billions of rupiah, but illegal logging is still happening,” said Winasa. He said he was still in shock after a visit last month to a supposedly forested area located around Penyaringan village where he found the trees gone and the forest replaced by a plain grass field.
Winasa has now warned local officials not “to play with fire” when it comes to illegal logging. He threatened to punish those villages that have already been warned three times on the issue.
“We have tolerated no action after three warnings [on illegal logging activities] but there won’t be any [letters] on the fourth. Salaries for village officials will be stopped and the village will be isolated from any kind of funding,” said Winasa.
Based on data from the Agriculture, Forestry, Plantation, Farming and Maritime Affairs Agency in Jembrana, some 11,000 hectares of forest have been destroyed, about 25 percent of the total forested area in the district’s West Bali National Park. Of the 11,000 hectares, 8,900 hectares are protected forest.
Winasa said the responsibility for protecting the forests did not fall solely on the shoulders of the forest police but also on village officials and public order officers. “No one is allowed to enter forest areas except for appointed officers,” he said.
A program initiated by Winasa for 2010 — “Zero Visits to the Forest” — is also proposing a Rp 1 million ($110) reward for any villager who captures illegal loggers and encourages village officials to take the violators to court.
“I’d rather use the money to compensate villagers who are brave enough to stop illegal loggers, instead of allocating protection funds to village heads and getting no results in the field,” he said, adding that officials and villagers should obey “awig-awig” (traditional regulations) on protecting the environment.
Meanwhile, Jembrana police chief Ahmad Nur Wakhid said that there were 19 cases of illegal logging in 2009, with thousands of logs collected as evidence, as well as chainsaws, trucks, cars and motorcycles. “The numbers are lower than in 2008 when we had 36 cases, however, increasing forest destruction is still closely linked to illegal logging,” he said.